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AbstractThis doctoral thesis is a reflexive inquiry into my education practice with social care students as I encourage them to engage in relational self-reflexivity in preparation for practice. Having taught social care students in higher education for many years, I noticed some found it difficult to be reflexive compared with their ability to understand a theory or develop their skills. I felt this was not an individual deficit but a systemic one and was related to their experience within education systems. These systems constructed over decades, resulted in them having few opportunities to be relationally reflexive of themselves and their lives to work in social care contexts. In this study, I set out to address this gap, by providing a different learning context where relational reflexivity in preparation for practice is emphasised. The approach described here is a development on the individualised, de-contextualised form of reflection common in most social care training. Instead, I developed a model of reflexivity for education which focuses on social care as a relational and systemic endeavour with the social care worker and client engaged in an ongoing relationship with each other. Providing this type of learning space for students meant my teaching practice also had to change. I could no longer be a bystander asking students to be reflexive of themselves, without also being reflexive of my practice. I adopted a collaborative, fluid, dialogical and non-expert position with students in small reflexive learning groups which not only encouraged greater reflexivity for them but a richer reflexivity of my practice as an educator. In this research, I develop a critically reflexive account of professional practice from our experiences within the group process and situate it within a discussion of related literature and practice. This research draws on postmodern qualitative theory which supports first-person inquiry into professional practice. I study our engagement in reflexivity within the group sessions, through the students’ and my reflexive diaries, feedback from students and by the video reviews of the teaching sessions. By assembling all these rich layers of research material, I offer here a model of relational reflexivity for education and training contexts which I have named SPiRRaLS (Systemic Practices in Relational Reflexivity and Learning Systems) as it focuses on relationships, the wider social, political, cultural and professional contexts and how these influence professional practice with clients and students. The research indicates that there are many benefits for students from engaging in this form of reflexivity that can, therefore, enhance their relationships with service users. From my experience of this process, I believe other disciplines would also benefit from this model of relational reflexivity in their education or training contexts. The study highlights the importance of support from organisations and education systems to help curate such relationally reflexive spaces. It requires institutional changes and resource allocation to develop practices that are more in line with contemporary society where education is not merely about knowledge acquisition but is liberatory, participative and potentially life-changing for the student, educator, and client.
CitationLeonard, K. (2020) 'Creating Relationally Reflexive Spaces in Social Care Education'. Professional Doctorate Thesis. University of Bedfordshire.
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted to the University of Bedfordshire, in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Professional Doctorate Thesis.
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